Sid Taylor’s confidence in the working class was contagious. His warmth and enthusiasm, big smile and strong handshake let workers know immediately he was on their side. He would say, “If times are hard and you’re not sure what to do, visit a worker.”

Sid was a bigger-than-life Communist who never hesitated to stand up for the needs and rights of people to a decent job, education, health care and housing, free from discrimination and war. He was always optimistic about a socialist future in the United States, foreseeing the end of exploitation when working people would own and control the fruits of their labor.

Up to the time of his death on Sept. 29, shortly after his 87th birthday, Sid was still fighting.

Born in New York in 1915, he was a rebel, dropped out of school in eighth grade, and moved to New Haven, Conn. Sid loved wrestling and was attracted to the Young Communist League (YCL) sports team. He found an organization that fought alongside people and organized to change the conditions that oppressed them. The Communist Party shaped Sid’s view of the world, to which he dedicated all his energies.

Sid enjoyed recounting his hard lessons as a new member. One day a Party leader exploded with anger when he found Sid rolling dice. “But, you told me to go where the people are,” Sid explained. “Yes,” was the reply, “but to raise them to a higher level!” Sid took the criticism to heart.

Soon, he was selected to attend a national training school of the Communist Party. He tried to leave because it was so hard to listen to lectures and read hour after hour. But he was convinced to stay, completed the school and went on to master the science of Marxism-Leninism.

In the YCL, Sid met Ann Soyka, who stole his heart. Her mother, who cleaned rooms at the Hotel Taft, and her father, a window washer, took them in. Sid and Ann were married for 62 years, and raised two sons, Joe and Bernie.

The years of the Great Depression involved Sid and his comrades in the Unemployed Councils. Evictions meant families’ furniture was thrown onto the sidewalk. Sid was on the spot, carrying furniture back into the house. He often recalled the huge marches of the unemployed, traveling all the way to the nation’s capital, that won Unemployment Insurance and Social Security.

Some workers asked Sid how to form a union. They were tired of sweatshop conditions with long hours, low pay and no health insurance or safety. He brought them to the People’s Center at 37 Howe Street, a social and organizing center established by mostly Jewish, left-wing emigres from Eastern Europe. Sid became a volunteer organizer for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and was elected first vice president of the New Haven CIO Council.

He went to plant gates across the state, with flyers for the union, and copies of the Daily Worker. He helped workers get elected to the State Legislature. He participated in the movement to free the Scottsboro Nine.

With the start of World War II, the call went out for volunteers to defeat Hitler fascism. Sid, now a full-time organizer for the YCL, entered the U.S. Army Air Force as a machine gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress. He participated in the shuttle run from England to the Soviet Union to Italy. Forty years later in Moscow, he was presented with a special award for this service.

After the war Sid went to work for the Connecticut Communist Party and became state chair, working as a plumber to make ends meet. More union organizing and defense of civil rights and liberties were on the order of the day.

After Congress passed the anti-communist Smith Act, Sid was one of seven Communist Party leaders in Connecticut framed up and arrested for the “crime” of conspiring to teach. Leading constitutional lawyers took the case. A defense committee organized public support. The conviction was reversed by a Court of Appeals, and Sid redoubled his activities.

He was the central force in rebuilding the Connecticut Communist Party, and was active in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements. Together with Communist Party national chair Henry Winston, Sid traveled to Hanoi on a peace mission in the midst of the bombing. There he learned the Vietnamese motto, “patience and struggle,” which he often repeated.

When District 1199 came to Connecticut, Sid became a volunteer union organizer among dietary workers at Yale New Haven Hospital. The Concerned Hospital Workers issued a newsletter and held regular meetings, house visits and social activities. After nearly five years, the first union contract was signed.

Sid gained respect and trust for his advice, dedication, humor and wisdom. He inspired the workers to understand they were in this struggle for their rights as part of a larger struggle for all workers’ rights. His clarity that the struggle against racism is central was critical to the largely African American, multi-racial workers.

Today, the leaders of that initial committee are in the forefront of the drive to organize the rest of the hospital and the university. They often refer to the lessons they learned from Sid.

To overcome the legacy of the Cold War, Sid proposed a Communist Party campaign for Congress, with myself as candidate. No one else could have convinced me to take on that task. From 1974 through 1982 the Communist Party received enough votes to maintain minor party ballot status in the 3rd Congressional District and for Mayor of New Haven.

The campaigns were exciting, challenging, and connected to everyday struggles. They helped set the stage for legislation against plant closings, a moratorium on utility shut-offs, and democratizing election laws. In 1984, after 12 years of collecting tens of thousands of signatures plus two State Supreme Court cases, the Communist Party presidential ticket appeared on the state ballot. Sid was at the center of all these efforts, always enthusiastic about our “winning campaigns.”

After Sid retired from the plumbing business, he was elected national treasurer of the Communist Party USA. He traveled the length and breadth of this country working with young and old to expand the size and scope of the organization. He was especially proud of a creative, large-scale “Yes, We Can!” recruitment drive.

Sid was unique in his ability to take basic political concepts and present them in a down-to-earth, practical way that inspired big results.

He was instrumental, with then General Secretary Gus Hall, in acquiring a new building for the national office. He criss-crossed the country, raising $1 million to buy it outright. Utilizing his building trades experience, he recruited volunteer carpenters, plumbers and electricians.

He was also instrumental in founding the “Special Funds,” which enable members, friends and allies to easily contribute advance gifts and wills.

When Sid and Ann left the cold winters of New England for West Palm Beach, Florida eight years ago, they did not retire. Sid remained a member of the National Committee, and immediately plunged into the task of building the Communist Party in his new home state.

Despite his poor hearing and failing eyesight, Sid was in the middle of the fightback when the 2000 presidential election was stolen. Among the union organizers sent in for the re-count fight were some he had helped train years earlier. They knew when they called Sid he would help them reach retirees and community leaders. The Associated Press carried a photo of Sid holding a sign outside the Palm Beach County Board of Election Supervisors, “Count the Vote of Every Vet.”

Sid’s last effort was to defeat Jeb Bush in the gubernatorial elections. He gave it every ounce of energy, picketing three times a week in favor of Janet Reno, or “anybody but Jeb.” In the hospital Sid said simply, “I’ve had a beautiful life.”

Sid Taylor did live a beautiful life. He made life beautiful for every one he touched. In Sid’s own words, he lived “a life with a purpose.” All that he gave will live on and grow forever.

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